Virginia is known for strict drug laws compared with many other states. In some cases, drug possession can land you in jail. But the consequences depend on which type of drugs and the amount involved. Virginia also has brand new marijuana possession laws that kick in on July 1, 2021. They make it legal to use small amounts of marijuana for recreational use. When it comes to drug possession charges, there are a lot of potentially mitigating factors. So having a skilled defense lawyer on your side is a must.
Is Drug Possession a Felony In Virginia?
The seriousness of a drug possession charge depends on the type of drug. Virginia classifies possession of some “hard” drugs as a felony. The state code divides drugs into five categories or “schedules.” Drugs with the highest potential for abuse and zero or low medical value are at the top of the list. Possession of Schedule 1 or 2 drugs- including heroin, cocaine, LSD, and methamphetamine- is a Class 5 felony in Virginia. Simple felony drug possession can potentially lead to a prison sentence of one to ten years. Possession of Schedule III to IV drugs, including having certain prescription drugs without a prescription, carries misdemeanor charges. For example, possessing codeine without a prescription is a Class 1 misdemeanor and can mean jail time of up to 12 months or a $2,500 fine or a combination thereof.
What Are The Primary Types of Drug Crimes?
Possession means having a controlled substance without a valid prescription. As discussed above, it’s a serious charge. Other drug-related crimes usually carry stiffer penalties. They include:
- Possession with intent to distribute: if police find large amounts of drugs, prosecutors often file PWID charges.
- Distribution: selling, giving away, or distributing a controlled substance.
- Manufacturing: producing drugs without legal authorization.
Can I Go To Jail For Drug Possession?
When it comes to drug possession sentences, the amount and type of drug make a big difference. You can end up with anything from a fine to years in prison. If you’re a first offender, you can likely avoid jail time, but that requires a firm commitment to staying clean and plenty of accountability. Under the Code of Virginia’s so-called 251 Disposition, first offenders (charged with possession only) can often get probation rather than jail time. That probation includes completing a state-certified drug education program, staying drug and alcohol-free (with testing), staying employed and fulfilling community service as ordered by the court. However, if you commit a second drug-related crime, the court can bring those first charges back with a vengeance. That’s one reason having a skilled defense attorney to help you navigate your options is vital.
How Do Things Change Under Virginia’s New Marijuana Laws?
When we look at Virginia’s new marijuana laws, it’s crucial to understand what they do and don’t allow. They do not offer blanket permission to grow, sell or buy marijuana. But as of July 1, 2021, Virginians can legally possess small amounts of marijuana for recreational use. Under the new laws:
- Possession of up to an ounce of marijuana is legal for adults 21 and over.
- Adults caught with more than an ounce, but less than a pound face a $25 fine.
- Adults caught with more than a pound can face felony charges punishable by 1 to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.
- Consuming marijuana in public is also illegal, with first offenses punishable by a $25 fine. A second offense would add mandatory drug treatment, and a third offense constitutes a Class 4 misdemeanor.
- Retail sales are not allowed in Virginia until 2024. The only legal way to get marijuana in the commonwealth is to grow your own or receive it as a gift.
- Virginians are now legally allowed to grow up to four marijuana plants per household, with legal penalties for exceeding that limit.
What Are Drug Treatment Courts?
In 2019, Loudoun County launched a drug treatment court in response to the national opioid crisis and successful treatment-based legal approaches in other states. This unique judicial pathway involves local legal, social services, and law enforcement agencies and allows some drug offenders to go to an intensive outpatient treatment program instead of jail. If they complete the program, defendants can get charges reduced or dismissed. However, you must plead guilty and agree to a treatment program and regular drug testing to qualify for the program. A qualified criminal defense attorney can help you decide whether the program makes sense for you.
What Should I Do If I Get Caught With Drugs?
If you’re arrested for drug possession, it’s essential to remain calm and know your rights. Make finding the right criminal defense attorney a priority. The right lawyer can have a significant impact on the outcome of your case. Keep the following tips in mind:
- Stay calm
- Be respectful with law enforcement but don’t answer any questions beyond basic identifying information. Remember, you have the right to remain silent.
- Call a lawyer right away. A qualified criminal defense attorney can change the outcome of your case.
Remember, in drug cases, the prosecution must prove that you knowingly or intentionally possessed drugs, and there are often flaws in the search and seizure procedures used by law enforcement.
Drug Charges? The Right Attorney Can Change Everything
When it comes to drug possession, courts have lots of discretion when it comes to sentencing. Many circumstances can lead to charges being dropped or reduced, so you need a lawyer who understands the ins and outs of the system. The Laurel Brigade Law Group’s team of seasoned criminal defense attorneys has in-depth knowledge of the Virginia Code and relevant case law related to all types of drug charges. Everyone deserves high-quality representation when charged with a crime. Having a smart, savvy, and assertive attorney on your side can mean life-changing results.